Best 5 Foam Roller Exercises for your Legs
Foam roller exercises are great for rolling along your calves, quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings. While the jury is out on the benefits of foam rolling, many patients seem to get therapeutic benefit from foam rolling.
Does foam rolling lengthen muscles? Probably not. Does foam rolling loosen up tight knots, no we don’t think so. Does foam rolling help loosen the fascia? Maybe, but we’re not 100% convinced. So how does it work? Rolling over tender muscles seems to provide pain relief to patients probably through a neurological feedback process. The act of foam rolling feels very much like you are doing self-massage. That seems to help patients. It could simply be a placebo, but some patients really do respond very well to it.
Many sportspeople find they get very “tight” through their legs, especially in the hamstrings and calves. Running them over a foam roller feels great. Some sportspeople use foam rollers for warming up, while others for cooling down, and others as part of their recovery process. DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is common after exercise. A research paper by Pearcey in 2015 reported that “Foam rolling effectively reduced DOMS” and “Foam rolling substantially improved quadriceps muscle tenders by a moderate to large amount in the days after fatigue”. However, this research was based on a small sample of just eight people. The research recommended 20 minutes of foam rolling immediately post-exercise and every 24 hours thereafter.
Let’s look at Surrey Physio’s Top 5 Exercises for your Legs
1. Foam Roller ITB Stretch Gentle
Lay a 4-inch (10cm) diameter foam roller on the floor. Lie on the floor with the roller under the side of your leg. Support yourself using your arms, and roll the roller up and down the side of your leg from your knee to your hip bone. You can lift your body using your arms to take pressure off the roller and make the exercise more gentle. Roll up and down for ten repetitions. This exercise loosens up a tendinous band along the outside of your thigh.
2. Foam Roller Glute and Piriformis Stretch Lying
Lay a 4-inch (10cm) diameter foam roller on the floor. Lie on the roller so the roller is situated under your buttocks. Bend your knees. Simply lie there and move the roller backward and forward for ten repetitions to create a stretch to the buttock (gluteal) muscle. Its normal for your back to arch slightly. Progress to a 6-inch (15cm) diameter roller.
3. Foam Roller Hamstring Stretch
Sit down placing a foam roller under your Hamstrings (back of the legs). Your feet should be off the ground, and you can balance using your arms. Roll the roller up and down your Hamstrings ten times to create a stretch. You can cross your legs to emphasise the stretch on one side.
4. Foam Roller Quadriceps
Lie face down on the floor, resting your elbows on the floor, with the roller under your Quadriceps muscles (front of the thighs). Roll the roller up and down your thighs ten times. You can focus the stretch on one side by shifting your body weight or crossing your legs.
5. Foam Roller Gastrocnemius Soleus Stretch
Sit down placing a foam roller under your calf muscles (back of the lower legs). Your feet should be off the ground, and you can balance using your arms. Roll the roller up and down your calves ten times to create a stretch. You can cross your legs to emphasise the stretch on one side. Progress by pointing your toes backwards towards your knee.
At Surrey Physio, we’re more than happy to guide you on the best exercises for you. If you have leg pain, or experiencing DOMS or tightness, just pop in for a consultation. We see a lot of sportspeople who need assistance for strains and pains in their legs. We can also help you with correct technique, and guide you on the most appropriate size for the roller. We’ll also let you know what else you can do to strengthen your legs as part of the rehab process.
(If you are a patient needing treatment for leg stiffness or muscle pains, call Surrey Physio to book a telephone/video consultation with one of our expert physios or osteopaths, or book in face-to-face for an appointment. You can call us on 0208 685 6930 or book online by clicking the link at the top of the page.
Therapists reading this page, check out the brilliant exercise tool Rehab My Patient – the best exercise prescription software for osteopaths, physios and sports therapists to prescribe foam roller exercises www.rehabmypatient.com).